When now-retired Hull summer resident Carl Carlsen started teaching at what was then North Shore Community College’s temporary campus in Lynn in the early 1980s, he started hearing stories about a nearby neighborhood call the Brickyard that he found intriguing.
“Many prominent people grew up there” before urban renewal took its toll, according to Carlsen, including former Speaker of the Massachusetts House Tom McGee, who is among those mentioned in Carlsen’s recently released book, “Brickyard Stories 2.0: A Lynn MA Neighborhood Before and After Urban Renewal.”
His interest in capturing what he believed to be the “magic” of what was once, as he describes it, a “quintessential American melting pot – a multiethnic, multiracial, blue-collar working-class neighborhood” – led him to embark on a college-supported oral history project in the mid-1980s detailing how this small, close-knit community of about a half-square mile was “wiped out by urban renewal” in the 1950s and 1960s.
Further research and personal accounts from current residents, former residents, and others with connections eventually led to the publication of “Brickyard Stories” and, most recently, “Brickyard Stories 2.0,” his second collection of Brickyard stories, complete with photographs and maps.
“I always had the feeling that there was unfinished Brickyard business, and I had a lingering impulse to continue with the project,” which led to “Brickyard 2.0,” the author explains.
“Brickyard Stories” was published by the college to accompany the opening of its permanent campus in Lynn in 1985 on the site of the Great Lynn Fire of 1981.
The oral histories contained in this nearly 300-page book detail how a large swath of residential housing was demolished and replaced with apartment towers and garden apartments and a new vocational school.
“Brickyard Stories 2.0” is about the connections people have to the Brickyard neighborhood and the city of Lynn. Each storyteller’s voice is unique, and each oral history is self-contained.
“Many of the people I interviewed had been displaced by urban renewal and were sorry for the passing of a way of life focused on the neighborhood,” Carlsen says. “While the stories are not exact verbatim transcriptions, I have aimed to stay true to the individual voices of the speakers.”
There are stories about mothers and fathers, artistic achievement, and the impact of urban renewal, and life in the redeveloped Brickyard. “Maps show the long history of the neighborhood and photographs show it in the present day,” Carlsen notes.
“Brickyard Stories 2.0” also details the post-renewal Brickyard of the 1990s and on into the 21st century. As an example, some entrepreneurs are using the Brickyard name for branding purposes “as a way to infuse their endeavors with the spirit and vitality of the old Brickyard,” Carlsen reports. “In 2021, the Brickyard is a shrunken neighborhood and an expanding brand.”
While Carlsen enjoyed spending time in Lynn (while teaching at the college) and now in his hometown of Winchester, he and his wife, former Hull resident and Hull High School graduate Susan Kendall, like nothing better than spending as much time as possible at their Samoset Avenue summer home.
Carlsen shares his wife’s love for the town and Nantasket Beach.
“I had visited Paragon Park a couple of times during my childhood, but after meeting and marrying Susan, we started spending summers in Hull,” he says.
Carlsen believes that his latest book will appeal to Hull residents “because of their own diverse backgrounds and connections.”
“Brickyard Stories 2.0” is available through Amazon.